Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers
November, 1, 2010
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
After the Green Bay Packers' 9-0 victory Sunday at the New York Jets, here are three issues that merit further examination:
- Unaesthetic as it might have been, you could make an argument that Sunday's victory was the most impressive of the Mike McCarthy era. You know all of the individual challenges. They had substitute starters at left defensive end, two linebacker positions and at strong safety. They were facing the NFL's second-best rushing offense, and overall one of its best teams. Weather conditions were tough, with winds at kickoff up to 22 miles per hour. And you know how they responded: A turnover-free, if unexplosive, offense. A defense that forced three turnovers. And even McCarthy made a nice call to challenge the spot of the Jets' first-quarter fake punt. Who cares what the final score looked like? You put it all together and have a pure team victory. Speaking Monday, McCarthy called the victory "significant." I can't disagree.
- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed only 15 of his 34 passes for a career-low 44.1 completion percentage. I'm sure Rodgers wouldn't make excuses for those numbers, but it should be noted that the wind wreaked havoc on both quarterbacks. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 11 of Rodgers' 19 incompletions were overthrown. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had nine overthrows. ESPN also credited Packers receivers with four drops, including what would have been a long touchdown by James Jones.
- Sunday marked a coming of age for punter Tim Masthay, who dropped five punts inside the 20-yard line and averaged a net of 41.5 overall. Jets returners called for three fair catches and didn't net any return yardage. In a defensive struggle on the road, I don't think you can underestimate the value of field position. The Jets started five of their drives inside the 20 yard line and only two of their possessions started on the plus side of their 30. The Packers trounced the Jets in the field-position battle, and Masthay played the biggest role in that. Monday, McCarthy called it "the finest punting performance" he has ever been involved in.
Kevin SeifertFollowing their win against the Jets, the Packers take their turn in the examination room.
I'm not sure how much consternation we should apply to the performance of the Packers offense. It's a fact that it managed only 237 yards and 13 first downs. McCarthy was critical from a fundamental standpoint, saying "we felt we just weren't very sharp" and that "we need to get back to playing football the right way." But don't we also have to give the Jets some credit for being an excellent defense? I agree that the Packers will need to play better on offense this season, but you almost want to give them a pass Sunday considering the circumstances. And it should be noted that their biggest play of the game, a 30-yard pass to receiver Greg Jennings, set up one of their field goals.